Rob Malley’s older brother was an avid hunter and fisherman who loved being in the woods while he was growing up.
“He was in an accident, became a quadriplegic, and all of that was kind of closed to him,” said Malley, a member of the Westmoreland Conservancy’s board of directors and co-chair of its Morosini Reserve Committee. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities, and it was really difficult to get his wheelchair out into the woods.”
With that in mind, Malley and the rest of the committee set out to create the Universal Pedestrian Trail, suitable for people with mobility challenges.
It will officially open Sunday, Sept. 15 in Murrysville.
“Too often people with mobility issues are overlooked when it comes to outdoor opportunities, and the conservancy means to remedy that,” Malley said.
Volunteers and local Boy Scouts cleared the former farm road and cut undergrowth away.
Conservancy members funded the trail through donations and a grant from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
And when the $20,000 estimate came up short, contractors and others involved with the project “really stepped up and helped us fill in those gaps,” Malley said.
The passive trail — meaning bikes and other vehicles outside of wheelchairs are not permitted — is made from compacted slag and is relatively level, though not ADA-compliant.
It winds about 2,000 feet through the reserve, which sits off Morosini Farm Court. The trail head is situated directly adjacent to a cul-de-sac handicapped parking area that will allow users on lift-fitted buses and vans to easily access the trail. The trail leads to a ridge above the Morosini Reserve’s one-acre pond.
“Some of our contractors came in and got the parking lot in good shape so we can really get a lot of cars in there now,” Malley said.
A grand opening will be from 2-6 p.m. Sept. 15 at the trail head on Morosini Farm Court.
Walking the trail, almost no noise from either Route 66 or Route 22 — both nearby — can be heard above the gentle chirping of birds and the mild drone of crickets and late-season locusts. Screech-owl boxes are posted along the trail’s length.
Malley said there are plans to add benches and bring back the Boy Scouts to continue improving the area around the pond.
A future second phase of the UPT will make the pond area more directly accessible for mobility-challenged visitors, he said.
“There’s people out there who need to get outside, even if it’s just to sit in the woods and enjoy the quiet,” Malley said. “This is one of the ways we can help steward the property.”
There is no cost to use the trail, and though the grand opening isn’t for a few more days, the trail is in use already by nearby residents.
“We look at it this way,” Malley said. “We were gifted the property. It’s a beautiful meadow, and this is a great way to sort of make it a gift for everyone to enjoy.”
The 183-acre Morosini Reserve was gifted to the Westmoreland Conservancy by Aldean Morosini in November 2015 to honor her husband William’s wishes that the land be preserved for future generations.